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Big drugmakers just raised their prices on 500 prescription drugs

Drug companies are ringing in the new year with another round of hikes in prescription drug prices, which continue to climb year after year, according to 46brooklyn Research, a nonprofit company that seeks to improve public access to U.S. drug pricing data. 

AbbVie, Bristol Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and other major pharmaceutical companies are raising their prices by a median of 4.6%, according to the analysis from 46brooklyn. All told, over 500 drugs will cost more this year, the research firm's data shows.

Drug prices are higher in the U.S. than in other developed countries, where governments typically negotiate with manufacturers to control costs. In a post on its website, 46brooklyn said it created the analysis to fight "the lack of transparency" in drug pricing, particularly in drugmaker Wholesale Acquisition Costs (WACs), which it sees as the root cause of the "American-made drug pricing crisis."

"There have been limited instances of state-required disclosures and federal legislative efforts that would fix this, but until something meaningful, all-encompassing and timely passes, the list prices drugmakers set are hidden behind paywalls," the nonprofit explained in a blog post. 

GlaxoSmithKline raised the price on 34 of its drug brands on January 1, company spokesperson Lyndsay Meyer told CBS MoneyWatch. Meyer said the average price increase across all medicines is 2.6%.

"Compared to last year, we've taken fewer list price increases and we didn't raise the list price of 18 products across our portfolio," Meyer said. 

AbbVie did not respond to requests for comment. 

President Trump signed executive orders earlier this year aimed at lowering drug prices. President-elect Joe Biden's health care platform has plans for combating rising drug prices, such as placing a cap on drug price increases and allowing Americans to buy prescriptions from other countries. 

Pfizer told CBS MoneyWatch that its medicine prices rose about 1.3% mainly to stay in line with overall inflation. 

"This modest increase is necessary to support investments that allow us to continue to discover new medicines and deliver those breakthroughs to the patients who need them," a company spokeswoman said. 

Bristol Myers Squibb "responsibly balances pricing its medicines so high-risk innovation is rewarded while providing access and affordability support for its patients," the company said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch. The company added that, across its entire portfolio of medicines, prices are expected to decrease. 

Bristol Myers Squibb sells lung cancer treatment Opdivo, which is expected to rise 1.5% and arthritis drug Orencia, which is looking at a 4.5% jump.

Other drugs expected to see price hikes include:

  • Pain medication Zipsor by 9.9%
  • Antiepileptic treatment Sabril by 9.5%
  • Crohn's disease prevention drug Humira by 7.4%
  • Heart attack treatment Kengreal by 6%
  • Diabetic nerve damage treatment Lyrica by 4.9%
  • Smoking prevention drug Chantix by 3%

Similar price jumps have occurred in recent history. In the first week of 2020, more than 400 drugs increased an average of 5%, according to GoodRx. In January 2019, drugmakers raised prices on 486 brand-name drugs by an average of 5.2% and, in January 2018, 580 brand-name drugs increased by an average of 8%. A majority of those price hikes happened in the first five days of January, GoodRx said. 

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